I was at Northcliffe House last week to watch this year’s students on the ACE Empower programme deliver their research presentations to some of the great and good of the UK newstrade.
The students, who were divided into three syndicates, looked at the ‘UK retail landscape’, ‘promotional mechanics’ and the ‘future of the supply chain’.
Whilst acknowledging the challenges (falling sales, reduced and less prominent shelf space, store closures), these young professionals seemed unencumbered by legacy thinking – they hadn’t directly experienced those heady days when sales increases and launches were the norm, so were untainted by disappointment. They look forward not backwards – this is the situation now, let’s deal with it.
First and foremost, publishers need to show retailers they still care about the newstrade. Yes, sales trends are down, but we could be doing better. Publishers are investing in digital and subscriptions, as they should be, but they should also be investing time, energy, passion and creativity into creating a more favourable sales environment at retail.
According to the ACE students, key areas to focus on are: develop strategies for convenience and discount stores (which are growing), look to further reduce the complexity of the news category, improve collaboration across the whole supply chain, forge better relations with retail groups so as to break down in-store constraints, create more imaginative and joined-up promotions that deliver both real value to the consumer and a sense of theatre, make existing space work harder, devise more imaginative copy placement strategies (kids magazines in toys section; cooking mags in the baking ingredients section), and … sort out the perennial and growing headache of late deliveries.
Yes, retail sales are down, but the right response to that is not to retreat from retail but to double down on our efforts to turn things around.